Creatives Carve Out a Home on a School Bus

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Exterior shot of Eldon, showing off the new paint job and Sloss Furnaces in Birmingham, AL (Image credit: Four x Productions)

Name: James & Jen
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
The basics: Purchased March 2016, completed March 2017 | 125 square feet

It still seems a little unreal that people can live on busses without being part of a family band or going on a very intense field trip inside the human body. Not only are James and Jen are living the dream on their rehabbed school bus, they’re slowly winning over the toughest of home critics, their cat.

Tell us a little (or a lot) about your home and the people who live there: The Eldon is a 1988 Chevrolet full shorty school bus that was converted to a secondary RV home for us, James Martin and Jen West. We are both filmmakers and creatives by day, so taking on a project like this was right up our alley. We dreamed for years about buying a bus before we actually did it. It seemed a bit surreal driving it home for the first time back in March of 2016. We honestly didn’t know what we had gotten ourselves into for the next year of our lives.

Some of the most fun parts of the buildout were creating the schematics of where everything would go. It’s quite amazing all of the things you can fit into 123 square feet of space. Our Instagram feed, @eldonthebus, documents the entire process from day one.

The Eldon includes an 8×8 top deck which is accessible by a ladder on the rear. This is one of our favorite features, as it allows a getaway from the interior while still being on the bus. It feels a lot higher than it actually it. We hope to enjoy many sunsets and mountain ranges from up top.

On the inside we have a small bathroom, kitchen (complete with running water, refrigerator, and cooking devices), sitting booth, couch that turns into a full size bed, small workspace, and TV. We also have a ton of storage tucked away in imaginative spaces.

Last but not least, we have a mini bar on board. James is also known as The Sipologist, and he loves to write about cocktails and the people who make them. He created a documentary in 2016 called The New Orleans Sazerac that played at the Emerging Filmmaker Showcase within the Cannes Film Festival. It was important for us to include a piece of that life on The Eldon.

What is your favorite room and why? Our favorite area of the bus is the booth sitting area near the front entrance. It’s positioned by two windows that we open often, letting fresh air in. We eat, drink morning coffee, do freelance work, and creative brainstorm all in this little nook. Jen’s father owns a company called Alabama Auto Tops that made custom cushions which makes sitting in the booth super comfy. The booth feels like a separate space from the back end of the bus, allowing for its own energy to thrive.

If you could magically change something about your home, what would it be? The one thing that we didn’t get to add on the inside due to space was a shower. It would have been nice to have that private area without having to leave the comforts of the bus. However, we’ve added an exterior shower with private collapsible walls which works just fine for us. We plan to also use the shower facilities of wherever we are staying when available.

Which fictional character would be most at home in your place? Perhaps Piper Chapman and Alex Vause from Orange is the New Black would enjoy The Eldon in their post prison life. After being locked up for so long in such tiny quarters, The Eldon would seem like a mansion to them. Also, the color scheme of The Eldon, orange and white, is more than appropriate.

James and Jen’s words of wisdom: Creating your own home, whether primary or secondary, can be rewarding beyond measure. It took us about thirteen months to fully finish The Eldon, with very few breaks in between. There were intense moments of questioning our sanity due to the learning curve of converting a bus to an RV, but in the end we were able to do everything we wanted with a bit of elbow grease and perseverance. Now we get to enjoy the fruits of our labor, which we plan to do to the fullest!

Our advice would be to do thorough research, plan, and budget as best as you can before starting. It will take you more time and money than you originally anticipate. Be prepared for this, and keep your eye on the finish line! We always loved to visualize ourselves taking dream trips in the bus, which was great motivation to keep going when the going got tough.

Thanks, James and Jen!

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